Do you suspect child abuse? Law requires you to report it
If you suspect a child has been physically, mentally, or emotionally abused or neglected, what should you do? Of course, it has to be reported -- but to whom? A school administrator, a supervisor, or the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS)?
If you’re not sure, you’re not alone. “There is much confusion about reporting child abuse—especially in the school environment,” says MEA-MFT Member Rights Director J.C. Weingartner.
“The law is clear: employees must report suspected abuse to DPHHS.”
Many employees believe they are only required to notify their manager (such as the principal) and let that manager decide if the alleged incident should be forwarded to DPHHS. Not true. An employee’s obligation is not satisfied by reporting to a school administrator or a supervisor—regardless of what the employer’s policy states.
“Report first to DPHHS and then to the boss,” Weingartner says. “Montana law requires that all suspected abuse and/or neglect be first reported to the Child and Family Services Hotline. Failure to make such a report can result in civil and/or criminal penalties.”
To report a possible case of child abuse or neglect, call the hotline toll-free: 866-820-5437.